Gang, you know what day it is. Tell 'em about it Jo Jo.
From the "Talks too much" studios, six minutes, six minutes, six minutes Doug E. Fresh and you're on.
The Tennessee men's basketball team delivered for coach Cuonzo Martin and in support of their NCAA tournament hopes with an impressively physical and physically impressive 67-48 win over Georgia on Tuesday night. It was not a clinic but it was a much-needed victory.
The Vols delivered on Martin's pledge/plea to get the ball inside to Jarnell Stokes, and the 6-foot-8 junior returned the favor with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
UT managed to win in a very non-UT way. They won ugly, something that has been difficult for this bunch to do despite how hard they consistently play.
The inside focus gave the Vols an identity for at least one game, although their struggles at point guard — they managed eight assists, 8! — are apparent whether they are winning or losing and when they play well and poorly.
It is the hand Martin has been dealt, and playing it to the end will be tough each and every night.
Still, despite a lack of easy opportunities, the Vols shot 47 percent — a number that is better than acceptable and a plateau for success for this bunch.
It was especially impressive considering the quiet night from Jordan McRae, who took only five official shots — he did get to the foul line — and was part of the oriented movement of getting the ball inside.
McRae's five official shots was not the only eye-popping number from a must-win game that the Vols landed. The crowd of 13,852 was the smallest SEC crowd in Thompson-Boling Arena this season. Whether that's apathy or late starting times or what have you we'll let you be the judge.
And with that it's on. It's go time.
Kevin Durant won the NBA first half. In the last week, LeBron James increased his volume and made sure we knew he was still there.
James lofted his Rushmore of all-time players. He leaked a video of his eye-popping dunk arsenal. He drained a buzzer-beating 30-footer for a game-winner in the Heat's final game before the All-Star break.
Dude was calling his shot. Tuesday night, he landed the first punch in his second-half assault, going 16-of-23 from the floor and scoring 42 points with nine rebounds and six assists in a 117-106 win at Dallas. James had 12 fourth-quarter points as the Heat pulled away. (Side note: It's the 50th time James has scored 40 or more in his NBA career, which is second among active players. It's doubtful, he'll pass the current leader since Kobe has 120. Wow.)
Thursday night James and Durant, who suddenly announced that he wants to be called The Servant because he does not like the Slim Reaper nickname, will face off again. And the timing of Durant picking The Servant as his new nickname is puzzling, considering KD has been the best player in the league by assuming the alpha dog role while point guard Russell Westbrook has recovered from injuries. Westbrook returns Thursday and if KD becomes the best wing-man since Goose died, then the Thunder are worse with Westbrook on the floor.
If Westbrook comes in and accepts a Robin role to KD's Batman, then giddy-up. But two alpha dogs is like having two quarterbacks — it seems good in theory but rarely works in the real world.
Yes, we're excited.
College football news
More times than not, as we have discussed frequently here and on Press Row from 3-6 on ESPN 105.1, if your favorite college football team makes news after signing day and before spring practice, it's bad 99 times out of 100.
So it goes with Georgia, which, as TFP SEC ace David Paschall tells us here, had to dismiss Josh Harvey-Clemons from the team. Harvey-Clemons was a supremely talented athlete from south Georgia who was a top-35 national player by almost every recruiting service coming out of high school.
Much was expected of JHC, who was believed to be athletic enough to play receiver or linebacker before settling in at safety. And considering that his lasting image in a Georgia uniform will be colliding with Tray Matthews and knocking the pass into the air that became Auburn's miracle, 73-yard touchdown on fourth-and-18 in a 43-38 win over the Bulldogs, JHC now may be one of the biggest recruiting busts in UGA history.
While the team-specific news is bad, the two biggest college football storylines of the day could alter the fabric of the sport.
Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter testified before the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, saying that football is a job and that college football players are employees of the university. In what ESPN legal expert Lester Munson termed a "hopeful" first day for players, Colture repeatedly said football was a job and that his scholarship and stipend were paychecks. In fact, the legal representatives of Northwestern even altered their argument, saying that the NLRB could view athletes as employees — something that Northwestern's defense team has steadfastly fought until Tuesday — but if they are employees, they are simply "temporary employees." As Munson noted, temporary employees are not permitted to form a union under our national labor laws.
Still, that Northwestern is already changing legal strategy speaks volumes about the seriousness of this suit and raises a potential disaster that could change the face of one of college football biggest growth areas.
Granted the change in strategy — saying that players could possibly be employees but as temporary employees they can't form a union — by Northwestern could prove to be effective long term. If the NLRB views college eligibility as temporary, the union issue is dead. But that debate — whether college football players are temporary — is also complicated and layered. Yes, college scholarships are issued on a yearly basis, and that screams temporary, and college players have a four-to-six-year maximum timeframe. But compare that to the NFL, which also has a lot of one-year deals and has an average career expectancy of between three and four years, and remember that the NFL has a union.
If the NLRB determines that college players are temporary employees, the recruiting process could be completely overhauled. If our national board of labor relations determines college football players in particular and college athletes in general to be temporary employees, the next wave in recruiting will be Temp Athletics Agency — T&A Agency if you will — that will for a price connect players and schools.
Heck, this could be the step to pay players on a per sport basis if a sliding scale is set for the various sports and the various degrees of talent in said sports.
Change is coming.
This and that
— The other major storyline in college football is the rule change proposed about slowing down the offenses. It was a sneaky add-on to last week's proper proposed alterations of the targeting rule that teams can't snap the ball in the first 10 seconds of the play clock. It's a rule that was suggested and supported by Alabama's Nick Saban and Arkansas's Bret Bielema, two guys that have been long outspoken against hurry-up offenses, and they have suggested that fast-paced offenses increase the danger for the defenses. No one has produced a shred of data or proof to support that claim, and several hurry-up proponents have asked to see the basis for the safety concerns of the hurry-up. That request has resonated with Troy Calhoun, the head of the college rules committee, who is starting to backtrack amid the loud and fast criticism of this proposed change.
— Ted Ligety won gold in the Winter Olympics giant slalom, becoming the first American man to do so. Good times. Side question: If Darrell Waltrip was doing the announcing for that race, would he have said, "LIG-ety, LIG-ety, LIG-ety." We say yes, yes he would.
— From the Dallas-satelite office comes the story of a woman carrying the ball against men in an 8-on-8, indoor football preseason game. She finished with three carries for minus-1 yard. (Side question: Is minus-1 yard singular? It feels like it should be but are you simply one if you are negative one when it comes to conjugation cases? And conjunction junction, what's your function?)
Bring you A game and feel free to drop some mailbag moments.
Let's play a game of "Finish this Sentence" brought ot you by Mad Libs, the world's first way for pre-teens to giggle about cuss words without knowing what they mean.
- This time next month, UT basketball will be getting ready for the __.
- A union for college athletes is _.
- If forced to pick the best basketball player on the planet, it is _.
Feel free to offer one of your own, and remember to use Mad Libs wisely kids.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...
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